Student Communication Plan Fundamentals for Higher Education

Marianne Sipe

Marianne Sipe

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Digital is everywhere! However, colleges and universities alike are still grappling with the planning and execution of a dynamic communication plan to help recruit and retain students. Some may feel they don’t have the resources in staff nor technology to launch and maintain a basic communication plan. Others may not understand or recognize the importance of strategically communicating to students, current and potential. And sometimes, organized method of a communication plan is not developed from the lack of knowing how or where to start. When I started working with communication plans over 10 years ago, there was little to no resources available to extract from and synthesize into something to use for the school I was currently working for.

The following are steps when starting on the path of building and managing communication plans. These steps will help with the framework of how to make a great beginning communication plan. And of course, if you need more assistance, my services are available by contacting Stamats and starting the process toward a robust and dynamic communication plan resulting in engaged prospective students, families and influencers. A strategic communication plan will also increase matriculation of students starting the first day of class. The students will start class happier and with less frustration because you establish timely and relevant messages for them to follow down the proverbial trail of obtaining higher education.

Define Your Audience

Each audience has a different message and Call-to-Action (CTA). To create a one-size fits all is disastrous. This method will result in extra phone calls, chats from confused students and family members trying to navigate through the message of steps one must take. Define your channel of who to talk to and keep to it. Later, messages may overlap but ALWAYS keep one message – one channel approach.

For instance, a message sent to seniors in high school that FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is open October 1 is a fantastic way to help students find their path toward attending your college. Supplying added helpful information in the message, such as your school code to input on the application is a great way to engage students in your school.

Examples of audiences for recruitment may include:

  • high school seniors
  • high school juniors
  • high school sophomores
  • high school freshman
  • transfer students
  • online students

Identify Key Dates for Students to Act

In the beginning, it may be difficult to come up with dates. Most of the time the key dates are part of the lexicon of higher ed and are second-nature of internal business processes. Once dates for deadlines and events are cataloged, think in terms of dates that need reminder messages to also include.

An example may include a college event for high school students to visit for a day. Decide how many messages and when to start the campaign leading up to the event.

Examples of messages may include:

  • When it is time to apply for FAFSA
  • Foundation scholarships are open to apply
  • College event(s) for students to register and attend
  • Financial Aid assistance event

Organize Messaging

I usually use a spreadsheet format to organize my messaging. However, I have seen formats using a document. In the spreadsheet format, each column supplies the header of pertinent information such as the title of the message and important notes to keep in mind when building the communication.

Examples of headers can include:

  • Timing to send message
  • Title of message
  • Kind of message, e.g., SMS texting, email, social media
  • Audience, used to signify subcategories within an audience such as on campus and online
  • Notes about the message

These three steps will start you on your way toward a planned and strategic communication plan that will support recruitment and retention efforts. If you have these established and are looking for added assistance. We can meet and see what you are thinking and what your institution wants to achieve. Stamats is a great place to connect with, as we provide services that are scalable to meet you where your institution is functioning. We take what you are doing well and move it into doing great.

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